Ghost Hunters Responsibility? What About Venue Responsibility?

This is an old blog post of mine from another blog some years ago.  I am re-posting an edited version here because I think that the subject is still relevant.  This particular location discussed is still in business, and still offering a low quality experience for a high price tag:

Some years ago I went with my ghost hunting group to Ft. Mifflin in Philadelphia PA.  For $80 a person, we were given the run of Ft. Mifflin for the night.  It was incredible!  I didn’t even cover the whole fort, and I couldn’t wait to go back.

I mention this trip because of how impressed I was.  For that fee we were escorted to our command central; a heated room that had snacks, sodas and coffee for us.  There were cots and benches, as well as some flyers for places that deliver food complete with notes showing how late they deliver.  We were all impressed because we had carted in our own snacks, sandwiches and energy drinks for the night. This investigation was a long night of hunting in the cold and the rain.  It was so wonderful to be able to run into command central to warm up, and get comfortable for a few minutes before we went back out to a new location within the fort.

As if this weren’t enough, the next morning we were escorted to another building outside of the fort where we were served a full breakfast!  I am talking about pancakes, eggs, bacon, biscuits… the whole nine yards.  It was by far the best ghost hunt I had ever been on when it comes to hospitality!

Now I do not expect snacks and soda’s to be provided to me on ghost hunts.  Most places I go are long abandoned and I am excited just to get my foot in the door.  I was born and raised in the woods of Southern Oregon so I don’t even require an indoor bathroom (I am not saying I grew up peeing in the woods, but that I grew up camping a lot with my family… we had indoor plumbing!).  Outhouse or not; I look at what I am getting for the price.  Am I really being provided a cost to benefit that is acceptable?  Is  the juice worth the squeeze?  In Ft. Mifflin’s case it was, and still is.

Then there are the venues that aren’t a value…

We all know what I am talking about.  The ones that popped up out of nowhere and claim to be the most haunted place in America.  They slap together a tour that sounds like it was copied verbatim from a ghost hunting show… and lets throw a hanging in there too, hangings most surely mean a haunting!

The Haunted House:

I had a very different experience with a historic home near me.  I knew someone, and was involved with his “group”, here in West Virginia.  This person, I will call Sam, was living in an apartment building next to the historic home.  He would be moving into that home and running it as a haunted attraction once the lease ran out for the current caretaker.  Until that lease ran out, Sam was not allowed to enter the home aside from a couple of walk throughs while escorted by the owner.  The caretaker residing in the home was bitter about being replaced by someone else and made his last days there difficult.  I explain this because I want you to understand the background of this now “haunted home” that sells tickets for ghost hunts and tours.

During the time that Sam was  living next door in the apartment building, which was several months, he began his “PR campaign” and laying the ground work for when he would be able to move open for business and start selling ghost hunts.  Sam was in this apartment for many months before moving into the haunted house and during that entire time Sam didn’t lift one finger to go the 6 miles into nearest town and work with the library and historical society to learn about the history of the house.  He did sporadically talk to some locals who would say that they believed the house was haunted.  With that information he began touting it as the most haunted place in our area.  He also began conveying blatantly untrue “facts” about John Wilkes Booth being involved in the houses history, and stated that Booth was originally supposed to flee the assassination of Lincoln and hide out in this particular house.  That Booths fiance was at the house waiting for his arrival before he broke his leg and things with drastically awry.  Well I didn’t need a library to tell me that the woman that was supposed to be his fiance was actually in the white house meeting with one of Lincoln’s sons at the time of the assassination, and she had no knowledge of the assassination plot Booth was to carry out.

It was only after several of us involved with Sam’s group continually brought up our concerns that his claims were not based on fact, and he hadn’t done anything to research them, did he finally start to dig into the true history of the house.  At this point he had moved into the house and it had been open for business for some time before Sam finally conceded that many of his claims about the house have no factual basis, not even a hint.  Unfortunately, he just started saying “legend has it…” as a justification for continuing these untruths about the history of the house.  As time went on Sam has made some adjustments to his original telling of the history of the home, but he still makes factual claims about things he knows to be untrue.  Because of this, myself and the majority of his team, left Sam’s group and never affiliated with him again.

Just before I made the decision to leave the group for good Sam asked myself and a fellow investigator, we will call her Pam, to help with the house one night as he had to host tour in the nearby historic town.  This is an account of my experience as well as a warning to ghost hunters when looking for a place to investigate:

For $80 a person (the same cost of the previously mentioned Ft. Mifflin at the time this happened) a group of friends had paid for an overnight ghost hunt of the haunted house.  Now this group was not a seasoned ghost hunting club, but several friends who had an interest in ghost hunting while most of them had never done it before.

This group had opted to have their night “chaperoned”.  This meant that the host guided the group with an agenda for the evening; including a schedule of training’s and hunting throughout the night.  In addition; equipment is provided in this type of service as the clients most likely won’t have any.  This is typically offered by many locations so that those who fit the above description can also enjoy a ghost hunting experience.  It is a great way to introduce people to the field.

Sam asked Pam and I to show up at 6:00 pm.  Unknown to us, this was the same time that the group was supposed to arrive, so there was no time to show us what we were supposed to do, or what his agenda contained.  We had not hosted an evening at this house prior, so we were not familiar with his plans.  Luckily the group was running late so we got a very short, truncated, explanation of what was expected of us.  Poor planning on Sam’s part, but this alone is not a deal breaker by any means.  Add to this other observations, however, and it made for a very interesting night.

Sam lives at the location, and it was a mess.  Not just a little messy, but smelly messy.  The kitchen had a very unpleasant odor coming from it, even though the door was closed, of rotten food and stagnant water in the piles of unwashed dishes in the sink.  We walked into the room used for “command central” to find days worth of open and half eaten bags of junk food laying about.  A large industrial trash can with no lid on it, and moldering with old trash. Dirty footprints all over the carpet that didn’t look like it had been vacuumed in over a month.

Now I know I said earlier that I don’t even need to have such amenities as indoor plumbing to be happy with my hunt.  And I have hunted abandoned locations before, but in my opinion (and this piece is all about my personal opinion) there is a HUGE difference between dirtiness from abandonment or disrepair and dirtiness from being lived in by a slob.  Peeling paint, vines growing through broken windows, glass and dirt on the exposed floors… not a problem!  A location where someone just didn’t take the time to clean up after themselves, for what was obviously extended periods of time, is just plain disgusting.  For me this is especially bad when the host cannot seem to take the time to clean up for clients that have paid $80 a head to spend the night there.

This was just the beginning.  When it came to the actual investigation it got even better.  Sam stayed around to do a tour then left us in charge to start the group on an investigation.  Though there was no time planned to have myself and Pam get acquainted with what was expected of us, we trusted the host had prepared for the evening.  We quickly found out that our trust was misplaced.  There wasn’t any equipment designated for the group to use.  And what we could scrounge up from around the room, we soon found to have dead batteries or none at all.  Now I wasn’t investigating this night, but I did happen to have a couple of pieces of equipment on me.  We were able to get a few things spread out among the group so that they could feel like they had SOME equipment to use.

In the mean time I took to digging around a house that isn’t mine in an attempt to find working equipment… with no luck.  At the same time I am texting Sam, unfortunately his answers back to me were rather ambiguous:

Text: Where do you keep your batteries?  We need triple A’s.

Answer: In the drawer

Text: What drawer, where?

No answer

Needless to say, our night got off to an embarrassing start.  In trying to support Sam and his business I was not going to say anything to indicate that Sam had not prepared for this group that bought tickets well over a month in advance.  Pam and I were the two hosts this group was relating the service to, and we absorbed their displeasure.  Also, because we are the only ones available to help these clients Pam and I were left feeling responsible for the disorganization and unpreparedness that Sam had left us with.

Our issues became even more embarrassing when I started studying the agenda for the evening.  A video vigil was fast approaching, and I knew that I had not seen any video camera’s when I was rooting around everywhere. Pam and I had no idea what we were supposed to do, and were trying to think of other options we could implement to keep this group occupied and having fun.

Luckily we were saved by the bell, my phone rang and it was time to pick up Sam from his walking tour and bring him back!  I went and got him, and asked him about the video vigil on the way back to the house.  I got some clarification that made my heart drop into the pit of my stomach.

From midnight until 2 am about 8 people were expected to crowd around a TV and watch a video feed trained on a toy rocking chair in another room of the house.  Then for another two hours, from 2 am to 4 am the feed would be switched and they would watch a child’s bicycle in another room.  As if 8 people snuggled around a 19″ TV in that dirty, smelly, command central for 4 hours wasn’t enough… something was nagging me in the back of my mind made me ask…  “Are those camera’s recording?” and the answer was no!  So this group is expected to stare for 4 hours at a TV for nothing?  If they see something there is no way to go back and examine, nor is there a way to take a copy of their new amazing evidence home with them!  Sam was in such a hurry to turn a profit that he had not even prepared with proper ghost hunting equipment before opening the house for business.  A self proclaimed parapsychologist and seasoned paranormal investigator advertised this haunted house and promised he would take care of the inexperienced with a planned agenda and equipment when he didn’t have the preparation or equipment he advertised.

Keep in mind that he is charging the same amount of money that a full night at Ft. Mifflin cost; and that is including all of the amenities that Ft. Mifflin provided.  To be fair, this house was offering bags of chips and sodas… for $1.00 a piece.

Amenities aside, this house also doesn’t have the reputation that Ft. Mifflin has.  Nor does it have the amount of evidence that the fort has to back it up.  So you are paying a premium to hunt a home with no background to support the price charged.  Granted, if the house really is haunted, it will gain that reputation.  And it will have the evidence to back it up.  But at this point in time, a new place that is basically un-tested?  Are you getting the value from your dollar that you deserve?  You decide.

So be careful out there!  I have run across places I suspected weren’t haunted at all, but just a way for a struggling place to make some extra money.  I have run into calamities like the one listed above.  But, just as often, I have hunted places that were exactly what they should have been, and I am happier for it.  Just keep your eyes peeled.  Just like any other retail operation, there are those out there who are not truthful, too lazy to provide a proper product, or just don’t care.  Whatever the reason, it means you are not getting what you paid for.

An update to this experience that is now several years old.  This “haunted house” is still in operation.  Recently I went to the post office and found a flyer posted by Sam on the bulletin board.  In addition to running the haunted house he claims to be a licensed Hypnotist with over 19 years of experience.  Offering to help people lose weight, stop smoking and other services hypnotists offer.  Well I know for a fact he wasn’t a hypnotist when I knew him not 4 years ago… and if he has been a hypnotist for over 19 years, he would have started when he was about 15 years old.  So the hits keep coming from that little corner of the world.  A Carney has to keep his act fresh to keep his bills paid.  Unfortunately, like Austin Powers says, Carney’s smell like cabbage.  In this case, rotten cabbage.


They Don’t Know They’re Dead…

Some years ago I had decided to go to a workshop hosted by a local ghost hunter.  At this time in my life I had been ghost hunting for a little over a year, but was always looking for new things to learn as well as people to network with. I still do, by the way, I think that there is nothing more important than respectfully knowing and learning, even experiencing, other hunters beliefs and techniques.  Only by “freelancing” (as I call it), and seeing others in an investigation, can we learn new things and draw our own conclusions.  Sometimes it is an exercise in patients (lots and lots of patients), sometimes I learn something that I still use today.

I RSVP’d for the workshop and headed out there for a nice afternoon of socializing with other ghost hunters in my area.  It was a good time, I met some great new people.  Some of whom I still keep close contact with today.  But there was something about the content of the presentation that still nags at me to this day.

Before I continue with this post, I just want to say that the following blog post is just my opinion.  I am not accusing people of being wrong as I have no factual basis to do so.  Just like in life, the paranormal field comes with a diverse selection of beliefs and theories.  Many of which are deeply tied to ones religious or cultural influence.  I am not saying that anyone’s religious/cultural beliefs are wrong, I am just offering my beliefs based on my experiences.

Having said that; the presenter of this particular workshop started talking about interaction with a ghost.  He said that common sense should rule in ghost hunting.  If you have an intelligent haunting, that ghost is most likely a mirror image of their consciousness when they passed.  For instance, if they were killed during the civil war then they probably would not be able to communicate with you regarding the latest summer blockbuster in theaters as they would not know what a movie is.  Fair enough, I see the logic behind this.  Not sure I agree with it; but it makes sense to me why he believes this.

He went on to say that if a person was of higher intelligence in life, they will be of higher intelligence in death.  If they were simple in life, they will be simple in death.  They do not suddenly gain some sort of all knowing ethereal genius in the after life.  I understand why he believes this, but we are reaching a point in the paranormal path where we start finding forks in the road.  Many different theories branch off from here.

Finally he continued to the statements that I have not been able to get over, “When ghost hunting you NEVER ask about their death, when they died, or if they know they are dead.  Ghosts don’t know they are dead; so when you perform an EVP session you must make no reference to their death.”

In the years since I heard his presentation this statement has never left me.  Again, I understand his logic, but I have come to the conclusion that I disagree.  Though this is a touchy subject, and a lot of people have different theories, I believe that this is our subconscious romanticizing the idea of ghosts and our need to save them.  I am just going to bullet point why I don’t believe that Ghost’s don’t know they are dead:

  • Let’s stick with the example of the civil war ghost.  If he truly is unable to absorb information from our time and understand how the world has changed… then how are we “teaching him” to communicate with us through ITC?  By lighting up an EMF detector or Rem Pod?  We continually go into haunted locations with new tech and tell the “ghost” how to use it.  And supposedly we get responses.  If we are truly communicating, then is it not safe to assume that we have taught them how to communicate with us.  Why is it such a leap to believe that they could see The History Channel playing in the house they are haunting and learn about events that happened after their death?  Granted, they may not be able to do this all of the time, and only glean things here and there… but they have all of the time in the world to gather up snippets of information right?
  • Carrying on your level of intelligence from life to the afterlife makes sense, but doesn’t that include ones ability to learn and adapt?  Highly intelligent, or simple, we all continue to learn and adapt to our environment and situations.  Granted… some better than others.
  • Which brings us to the 500 pound gorilla in the room.  I couldn’t agree with it then, and I still don’t agree with it.  I do not believe that ghosts don’t know they are dead.  Maybe immediately after death until they acclimate to their new environment, but not forever.  Personally I believe we, as a paranormal community, have to much evidence to the contrary.  Including the fact that those of us that do not believe they don’t know they are dead have no problem asking about the ghosts death during EVP sessions and get responses.

Obviously, as with in life, there could be exceptions to this rule.  There are always exceptions to rules in this world, but I do not believe that everywhere we go are ghosts trapped here who need help to “cross over”.  I believe that there is an afterlife that we don’t understand, and it is quite possible that the afterlife is intertwined with ours.  I believe that every now and then some in the afterlife reach out to us in whatever way they can.  I believe that sometimes they entertain those of us who go seeking them in whatever way they can.

If a ghost has figured out how to communicate with us through EVP, by learning the many different ITC methods, by manifesting to us… then I think it is safe to say that a ghost understands it is not with us.  That, by our definition, it is dead… though they may have a completely different definition of what they are…

Spirit Box P-SB7 Modification

As complained about in a previous post, I own a Spirit Box P-SB7.  I have seen others use the P-SB7 and other similar devices with some incredible results, and I have seen extremely questionable results.  After observing use that spanned the spectrum of believable to unbelievable I decided to get one for myself and experiment with it on a regular basis.  The jury is still out for me, but I try to make a point of using it at least once during every investigation I do.

A Spirit Box is just a hacked radio.  It has been modified to continually sweep radio stations at a fast rate.  This creates a lot of fuzz, and the idea is that a spirit can communicate through this fuzz.  The P-SB7 has features that allow you to chose between the AM and FM bands as well as sweeping forward or backwards.  Though I can’t think of how these features matter except to make the device look fancy.  Fuzz is fuzz, whether you are on the AM or the FM band, sweeping forward or backwards.

The P-SB7 also gives you several speeds that you can set your sweep to from slower to faster.  I default to the fastest speed for one particular reason; if something comes through, then it is harder to dispute the evidence if you can prove that the word(s) you have captured spans multiple radio stations during the sweep.  Making it more impossible that it is bleed-over from a radio station.  Which begs the question, why an antenna?  If the point of these devices is not to allow words from a radio station to actually make it through, then why include a component that boosts reception?

I have decided to modify my P-SB7 by removing the antenna.  My biggest challenge, in the midst of moving, was finding a tiny screwdriver.  Once I found a tiny screwdriver the process was quite simple:

Step 1:

Flip that Spirit Box over!  The first two screws are under the battery cover.

The first two screws are under the battery cover

Step 2:

Back to the front.  Carefully remove the silver display cover.

Carefully remove the silver display cover

Step 3:

Under the display cover are two more screws.  Once removed, this will allow you to open up the P-SB7

Two more screws under the silver display cover

Step 4:

With the P-SB7 now open, there are some more screws to remove.  In the upper left hand corner of the display screen, the lower right hand corner of the display screen and the lower right hand corner of the circuit board.

Remove the screws in the upper left hand corner of the display screen, the lower right hand corner of the display screen and the lower right hand corner of the circuit board

Step 5:

Carefully move the circuit board aside.  The board is attached to battery contacts on both sides, you will carefully pop these out to grant you the room needed to work.

Carefully move the circuit board to the side

Step 6:

Remove the antenna…

Remove the antenna

Step 7:

Carefully replace the circuit board.  I used some needle nosed pliers to pop the battery contacts back into place.  Replace the three internal screws.

Carefully replace circuit board and replace screws

Step 8:

Screw the outer shell back on and replace the silver display cover. ** I used a dab of super glue to re-adhere the silver display cover to the P-SB7.  I do not recommend this, as you can see, it seeped up into the display and looks messy.  If you are really careful, the cover seems to have no problem adhering back on.  However; if you want to, a couple little pieces of double sticky tape should do the trick. **

Re-attach the outer shell and replace the silver display cover

And there you have it!  The following is a quick video showing that the P-SB7 works just fine without it’s antenna:

I look forward to testing my modification this weekend at the Old South Pittsburg Hospital!

I Know The Spirit Box Is The Next Big Thing, But My Evidence Review Is Giving Me A Headache

When it comes to different equipment or theories in the paranormal field, I really try to keep an open mind.  We don’t know what is going with all of this unexplained phenomena.  Therefore, we don’t understand how things may react to equipment or processes you put in place when you investigate.  So the one thing I try to do is keep an open mind when new pieces of equipment start sweeping through the paranormal community.  Looking at equipment, or hearing a theory, and just “pish-poshing” it is not only disrespectful to the person excited to tell you about it, and it is closing the door on an untested opportunity.

That is why I am willing to use and test things that really seem crazy to me at first glance. Like the Ovilus for example.  The team I hunt with has an Ovilus, and on occasion we use it.  But when using it, we are testing it.  We are seeing if we get valid information, if it is appropriate to our surroundings, or if it is just not adding up after multiple uses.  I firmly believe that we have to objectively look at its performance at dozens of investigations before we truly can form an opinion.

This leads me to the Spirit Box.  The spirit box has swept the paranormal community much like the K2 meter did in years past. What was once a coveted and hard to get item is now available to the masses, and the masses have bought.  On paper, I like the concept of a Spirit Box.  It cycles through radio channels at a rapid rate, which causes a lot of fuzz.  The theory is that a spirit can take that fuzz and manipulate it, or draw from the energy, to speak through the spirit box.  The problem is that I have seen too many people run the cycle too slow, so you can hear full words from a radio station before it jumps to the next frequency.  This is easily taken care of by adjusting the rate of your cycle, and even removing the antenna from the Spirit Box so that it has a harder time actually picking up a radio frequency, but gives you more fuzz instead.

I have one huge gripe though; can someone please tell me why we ghost hunters seem to insist on turning the volume of the Spirit Box, or the speakers you have it connected to, ALL THE WAY UP?  I don’t know about you, but trying to review my digital recorder, which is so sensitive that the playback is even louder, is giving me a migraine!  Again, I understand the theory behind the Spirit Box, but I am not exactly certain of the significance of making sure that my evidence review requires my ears to bleed.

I have two investigations in November 2012.  If I am able to use the spirit box during these investigations I will be trying the sessions at a lower volume.  I will let you know if they seem to yield the same, better or worse results…

Watching Paranormal TV Shows… Not Watching Paranormal TV Shows… Does it Really Matter?

I have met many ghost hunters who swear they don’t watch TV shows about ghost hunting… I don’t believe it for a second!  People seem to claim this almost as if they think that they are cut from a better ghost hunting cloth.  Like it is a declaration of automatic entitlement over the rest of the ghost hunting field.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but the fact is, ghost hunting is my passion.  So when something airs on TV that deals with the same subject that I love… sure as hell I am going to watch it!  It really is as simple as that.  I would like to think that most of us are smart enough to know that television is for entertainment.  So why does the paranormal field seem to take up this cause and jump on their soap boxes about paranormal TV shows?  Don’t we all know that this is just for entertainment?

Because I watch a paranormal show does not mean that I automatically agree of everything I see.  It does not mean that I believe everything that they insinuate or claim as evidence either.  I whole heartily believe that as long as I am aware of that, and don’t treat these TV shows as the standard with which to measure myself… I can watch away without feeling like I am less of a ghost hunter!  Just like I do not think that a homicide detective uses CSI to adjust how they investigate a crime scene, but we seem to have no issue with the fact that a cop watches CSI, or a lawyer watches Law and Order… why such a fuss over paranormal shows?

And let me add an argument to the mix.  In my very sheltered life growing up; I absolutely LOVED “true” ghost stories and everything paranormal.  In elementary school I would check out book after book from the library and scare myself reading these tales of the unknown to the point that I couldn’t go to sleep.  I would just lay in bed and shiver in fear certain that there was some sort of dark entity behind me.  My mom banned me from bringing these books home, so I continued my quest within the school library walls.

But with the circumstances of my life and upbringing, I never knew that there were ghost hunting groups out there.  I knew about the Warrens and other Parapsychologists, but never thought that there was anything beyond this small fold of scientists that investigated people’s homes.  These were the kind of investigators highlighted in one of my favorite shows, A Haunting (the old school version).  I ate that show up, and wished I could be among the ranks of the Warren’s, Auerback’s, or Taff’s of the parapsychology world…

Then comes along the TV Show, Ghost Hunters, and with it the realization that ghost hunting is actually out there… and anyone can do it.  One night they aired an episode in Gettysburg, which is not far from where I live at this time.  I couldn’t wait to go up to Gettysburg to “see for myself”.  And so it began…  I dove head first down the rabbit hole of the paranormal because I wanted to see if something like what I am watching on Ghost Hunters could really happen to me.  I refused to believe what they are saying is going on in this location until I experience it for myself!  Soon after this revelation I stumbled across a group run by a friend of a friend, and the rest is history.  I have been educating myself, and hunting ever since.

If not for the widely popular show, Ghost Hunters, I never would have found this whole wide world of everything I am fascinated with.  The mystery, the suspense, the adrenaline.  I never knew it was all at my fingertips!!  Ghost Hunters ushered in a new era in the paranormal on a couple of levels.  It mainstreamed the possibility of the paranormal which, in my upbringing, was not a possibility.  It brought back to life the extreme curiosity of these mysterious happenings that used to keep me up as a child… the stuff I kind of grew away from because my religious upbringing did not have room for ghosts.  Secondly; it showed that, if you really want to, you can do this too!

I know many of you do not like what I just said.  I have heard so many people say with absolute spite how ghost hunting shows on TV have ruined the paranormal.  Saturating the field with a bunch of half assed crack pots that give everyone else a bad name.  And yes, in a way it may have done that.  But at the same time, look at your team.  Look at the people you trust with every investigation and tell me that you aren’t grateful to have them in your ranks.  Odds are several or all of them go into this after the TV wave of ghost hunting popularity became unavoidable.  There are a lot of amazing investigators that have come out of this as well.  And it is these investigators that will still be here when all of the ridiculous thrill seekers and frauds fall away.  Those of us that are serious about what we do have been forced to step up our game.  To rise to a higher level of understanding about the field and various theories within.

So I ask again… is it really that disgusting that I still tune in and watch paranormal TV shows?  I treat them with the same entertainment value as I do with Breaking Bad, or Drop Dead Diva… because we all know that those are absolutely real as well!!  And by the way; does anyone know how the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is doing these days?  I have always hoped that things worked out for him…

Orbs… We Have To Have This Discussion Again?

Orbs… need I say more?  Apparently I do because the math just doesn’t add up!

Everyone I talk to claims that they don’t believe in orbs.  “Orbs Schmorbs” they say.

Perhaps those of us trying to sound sciency would word it more like, “It is so hard to successfully differentiate a true orb from dust, particulates, moisture or bugs.  In addition, orbs are too easy for a skeptic to scrutinize as far as validity because of the higher possibility that it is one of the aforementioned natural occurrences.  Therefore, our team does not support orb photo’s.”

So why do I continually hear this caveat to the above statements, “But check out this picture…”?

WHY??!!??  Really; why should I “just check out this one picture”?  Because it looks like a demon head is inside of it?  Because, if you blow it up so much that it is as pixelated as a 70’s video game, you can see a southern belle in all her finery on her way to Cotillion?  Is that why this particular picture merits a “but…”?

A few years ago I investigated Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland.  As you can see by these pictures… there must have been ghosts EVERYWHERE!!!  Well; that or it was such a humid night that every picture looks like “Its raining ghosts!  Hallelujah, it’s raining ghosts, amen!”

It was an amazingly humid night folks.  Just like every other summer night in Maryland.  It was plenty warm, we were in jeans and t-shirts, but it was so humid that the moisture just hung in the air.  We saw that with every flash of the camera’s.  One of the people, whom I had never met before, was investigating for her first time.  Some weeks later I ran into her at an event in Fredrick Maryland.  She informed me that she caught a picture of a ghost.  This peaked my interest as she whipped out a well worn photo from her giant purse.  I am not kidding, this purse was big enough to stuff a baby in!

I am looking at her photo, and looking, and looking.  I can’t see this ghost, until she points it out to me, and there it was!  Actually; the ghost she pointed out to me looked exactly like a storm ship trooper.  She began to explain to me that this is a confederate soldier leaning against the fence while watching us investigate.  If confederate soldiers wore full body armor made out of white plastic with silly mask faces… then yes, I would have to agree with her.  But it wasn’t a confederate soldier.  It was a clump of moisture droplets suspended in the air.  To an eye that is desperate to find something, they turned into whatever she wanted them to be.

People I have never met before show me their “ground breaking” evidence which consists of smokey swirls between the camera and a scrubby mess of bushes.  But I look at the picture and I think one thing… okay, maybe two.  Why do people always take pictures of scrubby messy bushes?  And why am I supposed to believe that this isn’t cigarette smoke?

Oh, I know you say it isn’t cigarette smoke, and you tell me that this was taken on a warm night so it wasn’t your breath.  But the truth is, I wasn’t there when this picture was taken so I can only rely on the most logical conclusion… which is that it was cigarette smoke.  Any skeptic can only rely on this conclusion as well.  The bottom line is that you have no way of proving that this isn’t cigarette smoke especially when you have no corroborating evidence to show me along with your photo. “But look at the mist.  It is clearly a picture of a Care Bear shooting a musket at Bigfoot!  Look at this swirl here?  This is the rainbow across his tummy! DON’T YOU SEE IT?”

“Well yes, I see something resembling what you are describing, but yesterday I also saw a perfect formation of an elephant in the clouds… it wasn’t paranormal.”  And guess what everybody, I have been in Gettysburg on a night so hot and humid that we were sitting in chairs in our shorts and t-shirts, and you could see our breath like it was below zero.  Any number of natural occurrences (or cigarette smoke) cold have caused this.

“Okay, fine.  That doesn’t impress you?”  as he scrolls through pictures on his iPad, “Check out this one Orb…”


Flash Light Trick? Or Flashy Light Trick?

“If you are a male, turn the light to the left on.  And if you are a female, turn the light to the right on.”

“O! M! G! Did you see that?!?!  It’s a girl!!!”

“Okay, okay, thank you for helping us speak with you.  Can you turn the light off now? (short pause) Good job!  Thank you so much!  Now, can you start turning on the left light for yes and the right light for no?”

“She said yes!!!  Okay…”

We have all seen it on TV.  Someone props one or two flashlights somewhere in the room and starts asking the spirits to turn them on and off.  They begin to ask questions and the flashlights start responding to their questions, justifying a communication with the dead.

** I am going to say this now and probably many, many, more times as I post blogs: Watching ghost hunting on TV is for  entertainment only.  In fact… I think the debate about watching or not watching ghost hunts on TV would make a great blog post.  Stay tuned folks! **

Now where was I… oh,yes, we see people use flashlights as a form of communication on TV and want to rush out and try it.  Who wouldn’t???  It is a very inexpensive tool to add to your kit.  I have two flashlights that I use and I have found some interesting things while experimenting:

– I took these flashlights and set them up at work and home for 2 weeks.  I went through several sets of batteries during this process, and the lights didn’t turn on once.  That is not to say that they could have blinked when I went to the bathroom or wasn’t looking, but for the most part I paid attention to them, and kept them in my line of sight.

– I took the same flashlights to Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum where they claim that flashlight communication is extremely common, and wouldn’t you know, those two lights were turning off and on like gang busters!  This led me to believe that there may actually be something to this method.  But there is a problem…  Myself, and a young woman I was investigating with, successfully used these flashlights all over the building.  Oddly, they were turning off and on during almost every session, but throughout the entire night we were not able to get any consistency.  They were randomly turning on and off even when there was no request by ourselves for an answer.  When asking the same question in two different formats the lights would “give” two different answers.

– Conversely, I used the flashlights in Moundsville, WV at the West Virginia Penitentiary and got nothing but crickets….

Sometimes I wonder if the problem that bothers me about flashlights is actually the operator.  You know what I mean… one tiny blink and the person goes over the moon!  They suddenly feel so special that a ghost is talking to them that they make sure and draw all the attention to them (attention from the living I mean), and now feel like they have every right to take the one or two blinks they have gotten and craft that into a “tale of responses” worthy of a movie deal.  I especially love it when they take their hand crafted back story and run around telling the tale as if it is some sort of factual piece of history they pulled out of an archive somewhere.

Are you DYING to have some sort of communication to the point that you will interpret anything as such?  Or are you using common sense to rule out natural forces or other non paranormal anomalies?  Hell, even if you don’t fully use common sense… have you tried just a tiny bit that, when applied to your flashing flashlights, would reveal that your “communication with the dead” is nothing but random flashes that keep contradicting themselves?

I understand that everybody wants to something to happen; wants to be the one to find THE evidence of the night.  Or possibly THE evidence of the paranormal field.  I sure as hell do, because I am not yet 100% convinced that we really are reaching through the veil.  I need THE evidence to seal the deal for myself, but I can guarantee you that running up to me and telling me about your flashlight conversation you had in Lizzy Bordon’s bedroom an impressed blogger does not make.  From my observation, an impressed anybody does not make.

I will tell you this; I will keep playing with my two flashlights because something interesting is going on and I mean to see if I can’t quantify it more.  But maybe some helpful tips for those of us that are experimenting with flashlights:

– For the love of Pete; video tape your flashlight communication attempts.  Word of mouth means nothing but a good camp fire tale in this world and we all should know better.

– Think like a prosecutor.  Drill down on a subject and ask the same questions in different ways.  Not just two different ways, but three or more.

– Constantly circle back to things you have already gone over.

– Change the order of the questions and jump randomly between subjects.

– Hash, re-hash and re-re-hash to ensure consistency.  Don’t stop hashing, re-hashing and re-re-hashing until the flashlights stop flashing.

Happy hunting everybody.  And with further experimentation, I hope to let you know if I come across an intelligent “conversation”… or if ghosts are just stupid.